As the year draws to a close, many people pause to make resolutions: stop smoking; lose 30 pounds in two months; read more and watch TV less; be kinder to family and friends. But when they fall flat on their resolve, good intentions are quickly abandoned and former ways restored. That’s why I never make resolutions – I set goals.
The problem with resolutions is they’re all-or-nothing. Once you break them, it’s over. “I knew you couldn’t do it!” Unlike resolutions, goals chart a course, pointing the way toward desired results, and are achieved over time. Like training for a marathon, goals are not instantly accomplished. Progress is what matters, regardless of how small or incremental.
Of course, how do you know if you’re making “progress”? That’s why goals should be measurable and attainable. For instance, “I want to become a nicer person” sounds good, but it’s not a goal – it’s a good intention. However, determining to perform at least one act of kindness on a daily basis is something you can both measure and attain.
If getting physically fit is your goal, you might define that in terms of frequency of exercise, weight loss and other tangible measurements. Over the past two years I have established a very effective exercise regimen and learned about healthier eating. So in 2009 my goal will be to continue my fitness routine and maintain my goal weight. Since this is a goal and not a resolution, if I overindulge on fat grams one or two days, or miss a day of exercise, all is not lost. I just discipline myself to get back on track and refocus on my goals.
Instead of dwelling on failure, anticipate future success. As the Bible says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13).